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A HEALTHIER YOU AND ME

While watching a Criminal Minds marathon a few days ago, I spent some hours working on the recipes that go into my 3-ring binders; I am often nonplussed over some of the finds in the box—and came across an article that appeared in the January, 2008, issue of Woman’s Day—I want to share a brief explanation of some of these–along with my thoughts:

The first is “8 YOU KNOW YOU SHOULD DO BUT DON’T –

EAT BREAKFAST—author Anna Routos writes that “Study after study shows that people who eat a morning meal are more energized, focused and weigh less..” she adds that an ideal choice is oatmeal with nonfat milk and fresh fruit such as blueberries or strawberries mixed in. (I’ve been eating my favorite cereals for breakfast, with a few frozen blueberries that thaw out quickly—when I have bacon on hand and fry some slices—I end up giving most of it to the dogs, a little bit crumbled over their dry kibble is a big treat.)

BONE UP – try a calcium supplement every day. That I do.

GET YOUR THREE-A-DAY of whole grains—this can cut your risk of heart disease by more than 35%. Good sources include oatmeal and brown rice.

MILK IT—it’s a great source of calcium as well as vitamin D, which recent research shows may help you live longer; it’s also linked to a lower risk of some cancers. I have been consuming milk with cereal but I really love low fat milk made into tapioca or chocolate pudding).

HYDRATE—and take it from the tap. We’re missing out on cavity-preventing fluoride since we’ve started drinking all that bottled H2O. (This isn’t something I ever stopped to consider—I keep bottled water on hand all the time since moving to the Antelope Valley—but I use tap water to make coffee or tea. Does that count?

DO A SHOT of sunscreen—you need a full shot glass to cover your entire body, and one teaspoon for your face to fully protect against skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. (*This was such an eye opener—I generally spritz sunscreen on my arms and neck but never use it on my face; I only spread sunscreen on my legs when I am wearing shorts!

LUNCH ON SALAD – it’s an easy way to get at least two servings of vegetables in one shot, says Molly Morgan, R.D. Be sure to toss in the brightly colored ones which are highest in disease-fighting antioxidants. Try tomatoes, red and green peppers and broccoli.

FLOSS- gum disease increases your risk of various conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. (I have dentures so flossing isn’t something that I do).

The next “tips” are 6 NON-NEGOTIABLES –means vitally important—maybe put the list on your refrigerator door as a constant reminder. They are:

KNOW YOUR “BIG SEVEN” – Your weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate and blood sugar. These are the most crucial indicators of good health and disease risk—if any of these fall outside the healthy range, work with your doctor to get them under control.

TAKE YOUR FAMILY HEALTH HISTORY – Many diseases have a hereditary component, and your doctor may want to watch you more closely for conditions that run in your family. (My younger sister had a bout with breast cancer about two years ago and our older sister died in 2004 from complications arising from breast cancer that was not diagnosed early—after a mammogram in 2013, the doctor suggested some additional tests I should undergo, such as a breast MRI, since now there is history of breast cancer in my family.

We also discovered that some of us in my family have something called Factor 5, which is a blood disorder. We learned this when a niece in my family had a stillborn baby. My family doctor thought it unlikely I could have it—but guess what? I tested positive for this condition; one of my younger brothers also has it. My hematologist said quite frankly that it runs in my father’s side of the family. It could also explain three miscarriages I had n my child-bearing years. Both of my sisters have had miscarriages as well).

MEASURE YOUR WAIST MONTHLY – In women, if it’s over 25 inches, you’re at a higher risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes, regardless of your weight. GET AN ANNUAL MAMMOGRAM starting at age 40, along with a yearly clinical breast exam and a periodic breast self-exam, it’s the best way to catch breast cancer in its early, most treatable stages.(who knew this about measuring your waist? not I!)

ASK FOR AN HPV TEST – Along with your Pap, it screens for the human papillomavirus which is directly linked to cervical cancer.

DO A FULL-BODY MOLE CHECK on yourself monthly, and get one yearly at the dermatologist. If you notice any that are new, changed or bleeding, see a dermatologist ASAP.

And finally—8 YOU CAN NOW COUNT AS HEALTHY

Nibble before dinner – having about 70 calories of healthy fat 20 minutes before you eat—that’ six walnuts, 12 almonds or 20 peanuts—can trick you into thinking you’re full faster. This works because good fats stimulate the production of a hormone that sends the signal to your brain that you’ve eaten enough.

HAVE PIZZA NIGHT – pizza is often dismissed as unhealthy but if you use whole wheat crust and lowfat cheese, and pile on the veggies (skipping the pepperoni and ground beef) its one the most nutritionally sound meals around. (the trick here, I think—is making your own pizza from scratch!)

JUICE IT UP – so long to its reputation as a sugar and calorie bomb. Research has found that drinking fruit and vegetable drinks can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 76% and help lower cholesterol. Just make sure you go for 100% juice (and read labels carefully)

PUT PASTA ON THE MENU – just make sure you choose multigrain varieties!

DRINK A FRUITY COCKTAIL – Research shows that alcohol can increase the level of antioxidants in certain fruits, including strawberries and blackberries (who knew?)

EXPRESS YOURSELF – When people write affectionately about their close friends and family in three 20 minute sessions, their cholesterol dropped an average of eleven points! (Another who knew?!–I wonder if posting on your blog counts?)

GO SHOPPING! –Buying something as small as a lipstick can give your mood a lift plus you can burn off up to 160 calories walking around the mall(as always, be sure to choose a parking spot in the last row. (I don’t like to shop and only go to the mall when I have someone along with me. My shopping is pretty much confined to Quartz Hill and Lancaster—so I’m guilty of not doing this.)

DO THE DISHES—increasing light physical activity such as washing dishes and ironing—can lower blood glucose levels and may reduce the risk of diabetes according to research in the Journal DIABETES CARE. (Well, I wash dishes all the time, not having a dish washer( AM the dish washer) – and I iron only when I absolutely have to—I remember only all too well the hours spent doing ironing before permanent press came along—hours of ironing every week when I was still living at home with my parents. I did the ironing for the entire family with the exception of my father’s bowling shirts–But some of these tips may help all of us—and don’t do any ironing unless you absolutely have to!

–Sandra Lee Smith

2014 in review

I wanted to share this report with all of my subscribers and friends–I’ve neglected the blog this year due to some illness but I am much better and stronger, and I want to make it up to all of you who have stayed with me. Thank you, everyone – Sandy@sandychatter.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 37,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

THANKSGIVING RECIPES, ANYONE?

Despite having hundreds—maybe thousands—of cookbooks—including a entire bookcase full of Christmas cookbooks—I don’t have a lot of Thanksgiving cookbooks.

Years ago, I gave up making a Thanksgiving dinner—because my then-husband never appreciated the nine or ten hours spent making a huge Thanksgiving dinner. He never complimented anything. If anything, he would say that the potatoes needed more salt. Well, then we became friends with Les and Neva. Les was a Hungarian refugee; he and other refugees escaped from Hungary during the Hungarian revolution. There were a group of Hungarian men who had married American women. Les was one of them, who married Neva.

Neva’s family all participated in a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner, which was held at Neva’s parents’ home. Neva was from a large family and everyone participated—there would be, in addition to turkey, ham and roast pork. There would be many pies and cakes. You name it—it was spread out on the tables that were set up in their family room which led out to a lavish backyard filled with plants and trees. It became my job to make a lot of biscuits so I would make maybe 75 or 80 biscuits.

Those Thanksgiving dinners disappeared when Neva, then Les, passed away, as well as various members of Neva’s large family.

In 1986, I met Bob—and we began spending Thanksgiving holidays going up the coast, sometimes staying in San Luis Obispo, twice going to Hearst Castle , but exploring other areas too. Once we went to the well-known Madonna Inn for a Thanksgiving dinner that was sadly disappointing. When we discovered a   motel twelve miles south of San Luis Obispo in Pismo Beach, we also discovered their motel suite with a kitchen-ette. We spent a Thanksgiving there, with my sister and her husband and children. For Thanksgiving DAY my brother in law cooked hamburgers on a grill in the motel area. The next day I cooked a small turkey in a turkey roaster. We had instant potatoes and some instant made gravy, and some crescent rolls, canned cranberries and some canned vegetables such as corn. It was a fantastic dinner that we all remember fondly. The next day, I made turkey rice soup in the roaster and let it cook while we all went exploring in San Luis Obispo. It was drizzling and we walked around in the rain. We had the soup for dinner that night –and my sister and I filled gallon jars we had brought along with us with leftover soup. Until Bob’s health gave away, we almost always took off up the coast for Thanksgiving weekend.

In more recent years, I have participated in my daughter in law’s turkey dinners. I began making a turkey gravy recipe found on Epicurious in 2006 – Bob and I were invited to my friend Tina’s parent’s home for that Thanksgiving day dinner. Tina is from a large family and everybody participates in making the meal and then cleaning up afterwards. (it was reminiscent of Neva’s family dinners). I took the gravy in a crockpot to keep hot and had the rest in large jars—there was nothing left afterwards!

I have been making that Epicurious turkey gravy recipe ever since.

In my cookbook collection I found two Thanksgiving cookbooks – one is an All recipes “tried & true Thanksiving & Christmas top 200 recipes” (allrecipes.com is the very first cooking/recipe website I ever found). This cookbook was published in 2002. I also have Williams Sonoma Kitchen Library Chuck Williams’ Thanksgiving & Christmas originally published in 1993 and reprinted few times. I may have felt shortchanged not to have more Thanksgiving cookbooks – and is there one that doesn’t have Christmas tacked on with it?

I also have four turkey cookbooks—I have reviewed and written about THE TURKEY COOKBOOK by Rick Rodgers, posted on my blog, August, 2013, and WILD ABOUT TURKEY, a book published by the National Wild Turkey Federation, which I wrote about—and posted on my blog—in July, 2013. A greater search of my book shelves unearthed CHEF WOLFE’S NEW AMERICAN TURKEY COOKBOOK, a softcover cookbook published in 1984, and THE YEAR-ROUND TURKEY COOKBOOK, by Barbara Gibbons, also a soft cover cookbook published in 1980. But cookbooks about turkey – in a generic sense of the word – aren’t cookbooks about thanksgiving turkey.

A few years ago I realized that my women’s magazines were filled with Thanksgiving recipes every November – and I had stacks of magazines, some going back three or four years – to go through. I had a blank recipe book (actually, I have about half a dozen of those blank recipe books that I have filled out…two just with cookie recipes.

Anyway, I began going through my magazines and cutting out all the recipes for roasting turkeys, various types of stuffings and many different side dishes. My home-made Thanksgiving cookbook contains recipes for

Roast Turkey with Port Gravy

Roast Turkey with Sherry Butter

Rosemary Roasted Turkey

Orange Ginger Glazed Turkey

BBQ Glazed Turkey A La Orange

Sage Roast Turkey with Artichoke Stuffing

Roast Turkey with Spicy Chorizo Stuffing

Honey and Spice Glaze Turkey

Roast Turkey with Cranberry Fruit Dressing (oh, yum!)

Roast Turkey with Pomegranate Gravy

Traditional Roast Turkey

And The Simplest Roast Turkey

–plus many more, not to mention a lot of stuffing recipes, lots of sides and plenty of recipes for using up leftovers the day after Thanksgiving. I love my homemade Thanksgiving cookbook and never get tired of going through it looking for something new or unusual. Those blank recipe books turn up in various places – I know that one of mine came from Gooseberry Patch.

Actually, another one of the Gooseberry Patch cookbooks is a work in progress—I am collecting pumpkin recipes for that one. Another of my Gooseberry Patch cookbooks—believe it or not—contains all the fruitcake recipes I could find.

I love fruitcake—and Bob did too. So did our family friend Luther who could be counted on to help Bob shell and chop all the nuts and dried fruits for a fruitcake. I think these homemade cookbooks are just about my favorites; I keep them in a little bookcase by my computer and I never get tired of going through them. So, if you find yourself in a quandary, trying to decide what kind of turkey to make for Thanksgiving—think about creating your own holiday cookbook. It’s also a good project for winter days when it’s too dreary to go out of doors.

Meantime, let me share my turkey stock recipe with you. This appeared in Gourmet magazine in November, 2006. This recipe makes a lot—but if you buy some of those 2- quart Glad-lock containers (the kind shaped like a loaf) – you can freeze the stock to have on hand for other holidays or special occasions.

TURKEY STOCK

Roasting the turkey and vegetables before simmering them results in a dark stock that takes you more than halfway to a rich brown gravy. The recipe yields enough for the gravy and then some, but you’ll be happy to have the extra when it comes time to make soup.

TO MAKE TURKEY STOCK, YOU WILL NEED:

6 lb turkey parts such as wings, drumsticks, and thighs 3 medium yellow onions, left unpeeled, trimmed and halved 3 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch lengths 3 carrots, quartered 5 qt cold water 6 fresh parsley stems (without leaves) 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf 10 black peppercorns 1 1/2 teaspoons salt Special equipment: a 17- by 14-inch flameproof roasting pan

If using turkey wings, halve at joints with a cleaver or large knife, then crack wing bones in several places with back of cleaver or knife. (Do not crack bones if using other parts.) Pat turkey dry. Put oven rack in lowest position of oven and preheat oven to 500°F. Roast turkey parts, skin sides down, in dry roasting pan, turning over once, until browned well, about 45 minutes. Transfer to an 8- to 10-quart stockpot with tongs, reserving fat in roasting pan. Add onions (cut sides down), celery, and carrots to fat in pan and roast, stirring halfway through roasting, until golden, about 20 minutes total. Add vegetables to turkey in stockpot. Straddle pan across 2 burners, then add 2 cups water and deglaze by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits, 1 minute. Add deglazing liquid to turkey and vegetables in stockpot, then add parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns, salt, and remaining 4 1/2 quarts water. Reduce heat and gently simmer, partially covered, 3 hours. Pour stock through a large fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, discarding solids. Measure stock: If there is more than 13 cups, boil in cleaned pot until reduced to 13 cups. If there is less, add enough water to bring total to 13 cups. If using immediately, let stand until fat rises to top, 1 to 2 minutes, then skim off and discard fat. If not, cool completely, uncovered, then chill, covered, before skimming fat (it will be easier to remove when cool or cold). Cooks’ note: Stock can be chilled in an airtight container 1 week or frozen 3 months. Makes about 13 cups. Thirteen cups is a little over three quarts stock. From Gourmet magazine, November 2006. Recipe also appeared in Epicurious.

To make gravy from your turkey stock, cornstarch will blend better than flour. For two cups of turkey stock, add 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Do not add cornstarch to hot liquids; it should only be added to cold water or turkey stock. Whisk and heat gently until the gravy has thickened.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

–Sandra Lee Smith

I SAY TO-MAY-TOE, YOU SAY TO-MAH-TOE

OR – (I say tomato, you say Tomah to–let’s call the whole thing off (song lyrics from long ago)

It has been some years since we had a glut of tomatoes (still living in Arleta, I think) where I canned quarts and quarts of whole tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, salsa, tomato puree, and my brother’s recipe for “sketti” sauce.

I haven’t had a good veggie garden for the past five years, being new to the area and having a back yard that was let go for many months and was mostly weeds. We began planting fruit trees a year or two after moving to the Antelope Valley and Kelly has proven that a fantastic veggie garden is do-able here in the dry desert

 My son Kelly has discovered he has a green thumb and has been growing lots of tomatoes, bell peppers, hot chili peppers, and some corn. He brings over plastic tubs of tomatoes and peppers. So far, I have canned 10 quarts of tomato juice, all made from cherry tomatoes that have taken over his garden. I’ve also canned fig jam given to me by a friend’s sister, and 5 pints of salsa.

I love tomatoes and enjoy canning them to have on hand throughout the winter months. Whenever we had a bumper crop of tomatoes, it was a beautiful sight to behold when there were a dozen or more lined up, ripening, on the glass panes of the louver windows in our valley kitchen. This particular window faced west where the bright afternoon sun shined through.  

The tomato is the superstar of the vegetable world (even if it actually is a fruit), the most popular and widely grown plant in our home gardens—and with good reason, when you discover how versatile it is. Here in the USA, more than 100 varieties of tomatoes are grown to suit your every need—whether you want to can tomatoes, use them in sauces and pastes and purees – or eat them raw. There is nothing on earth like walking out to your garden, picking a ripe tomato, brushing it off with your shirtsleeve – and biting into it! The second best way to enjoy a tomato might be to slice them and sprinkle with salt and pepper. One of my favorite recipes is a marinated tomato recipe given to me by an Ohioan childhood friend many years ago when we were visiting relatives in Cincinnati.

Tomatoes are believed to have first been cultivated by the Indians of South America. Most food historians believe that tomatoes were probably first grown in Mexico and Peru (the name is derived from the Aztec xitomate or xtomatle depending on whose translation of Aztec you accept) though the picture is muddied by a 200 A.D. description by the Greek physician, Galen, of an Egyptian fruit which sounds very much like a tomato. However, most food historians concede the tomato’s South American origin.

Tomatoes are believed to have been brought to Europe by way of Mexico, probably by the conquistadors, where the fruit eventually found its way to Italy. The Italians called their early yellow variety of tomato “pomi d’oro”, or “apple of gold”. However, it was regarded by the rest of Europe as an ornamental plant and, perhaps in a distortion of its Italian name, was called “pomme d’amour”, or “love apple”.

Tomatoes were introduced into England in 1596 but were considered to be just ornamental plants. The vines were trained to grow on trellises where their bright colored fruit could be admired, but nobody ate the fruit, which was thought to be poisonous.

Not until the 18th century did the tomato begin to achieve a place in European cuisine, although Elizabethans still thought tomatoes were poisonous. The idea that tomatoes were dangerous is also most likely based on their being listed among the narcotic herbs in the deadly nightshade family by Pierandrea Mattioli, the Italian herbalist, in his herbal book first published in 1544. Mattioli called the tomato the golden apple and associated it with belladonna, henbane and mandrake. 

Early colonists are thought to have brought tomato seeds to Virginia; however, no record of its culture exists before 1781 when Thomas Jefferson mentioned planting a crop. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th century that the tomato seems to have made it way to market to become a fairly common ingredient in the Creole cooking of Louisiana. However, until after the Civil war most Americans still believed tomatoes were poisonous. Actually, the leaves and stems are toxic so this is probably where this belief originated. (Curiously, the potato also was once thought to be poisonous. Like the tomato, potatoes were first grown in Europe as ornamental plants – some of the Presbyterian clergy in Scotland maintained that potatoes, since they were not mentioned in the bible, were not safe to eat).

According to the Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery, published in 1949 by Wm. H. Wise & Co (and one of my favorite reference books), the exact origin of the tomato is still in doubt. Various legends say that it comes from Africa, from India, or from China. Some historians say that the tomato was first found in Peru where the Spaniards, searching for Inca treasures, saw it growing in gardens. Somewhere, sometime ago, I remember reading about tomato seeds being found in caves in remote parts of South America.

 If you’ve ever had a compost, you know that tomato seeds are the hardiest of seeds. Our compost, where we lived in Arleta for 19 years, was over 15 years old; Bob dug from the bottom to fertilize our flowers and plants and we were both  constantly surprised by volunteer tomato plants that sprouted up – in the middle of the marigolds, or where ever compost had been spread.

 Got a glut of tomatoes in your garden? To paraphrase Wallace Windsor, the former Duchess of Windsor from the 1930s, you can’t be too rich or too thin…or have too many tomatoes! Here are some recipes to whet your appetite—or fill the pantry shelves.

CANNING TOMATOES

15 lbs tomatoes

boiling water

14 TBSP lemon juice, divided or 3 ½ tsp citric acid, divided

7 tsp canning salt, divided

7 1-quart canning jars and lids, sterilized, kept hot

Dip tomatoes into boiling water until skins split; about 30 to 60 seconds; plunge under cold water and peel. Core; cut into half, if desired. Set aside. Add 2 TBSP lemon juice and 1 tsp of canning salt to each jar; add tomatoes. Cover with hot water leaving ½” headspace. Remove air bubbles; secure lids. Process in a boiling water bath 45 minutes. Set jars on a towel to cool. Check for seals. Makes 7 jars.

 

DRYING TOMATOES

Wash, quarter and blanch for about 5 minutes. Run through a food mill to remove skins and seeds. Strain out the juice through a jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth. Use a little hand pressure to extract more water, then spread the remaining pulp on glass, cookie sheets or pieces of plastic. Turn the drying pulp frequently until it becomes dry flakes.

I made my dried tomato slices by simply slicing them very thin with a very sharp knife, and spreading them in a single layer on the racks of a dehydrator. I only washed and stemmed the tomatoes; I did not peel or seed them. When they were completely dry, I packed them into quart jars or ground them to a powder using a coffee grinder).

HOME CANNED TOMATO JUICE

20 LARGE RIPE TOMATOES

1 MEDIUM GREEN OR SWEET RED PEPPER, MINCED

2 LARGE ONIONS, MINCED

1 CLOVE GARLIC, CRUSHED (OPTIONAL)

2 STALKS CELERY, DICED

1/3 CUP SUGAR

¼ CUP LEMON JUICE

1 TBSP SALT

Combine tomatoes, green pepper, onions, garlic, celery, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a large heavy pot. Simmer covered, over medium heat, 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until tomatoes cook down to juice. Put tomatoes through food mill or fine sieve, forcing out as much juice and solids as possible.

Pour prepared juice into clean, scalded 1-quart jars into which you have added 2 TBSP lemon juice and 1 tsp of canning salt. Put a canning lid (which has been boiled in water and kept warm) and screw on canning rings. Process in boiling water bath 45 minutes. Makes 4 quarts.

 TOMATO BUTTER

2 LBS red tomatoes, peeled and chopped

3 LBS green tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 lemons, halves and thinly sliced (including peel) seeds removed

3 cups sugar

½ tsp ground cloves

2 TBSP minced fresh ginger root or crystallized ginger

2 TBSP chopped candied orange peel

 In a large kettle, combine all ingredients. Bring to a slow boil and cook over moderate heat until thick, about 45 minutes. Ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal. Makes 3 pints.

 TOMATO SAUCE

 1 oz butter

2 lbs tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely chopped

¼ – ½ tsp sugar

Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low head. Add tomatoes and stir to mix with the butter. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in the sugar. Partly cover the pan and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until tomatoes have softened and the sauce is thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use immediately or cool and then refrigerate or freeze.

 MEXICAN SALSA (CANNED)

 5 POUNDS ripe tomatoes

3 cups chopped onions

1 ¼ cups chopped, seeded chili peppers

1 cup snipped fresh cilantro leaves

1 cup apple cider or apple cider vinegar

2 TBSP minced garlic

1 TBSP canning salt

5 pint jars with lids and rings, sterilized

Dip tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Plunge into ice water and slip off skins. Core and chop tomatoes.

 In a large 6-quart saucepan, combine tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or to desired thickness, stirring occasionally. Immediately fill hot jars with mixture, leaving ½” headspace. Carefully run a non-metallic utensil down the inside of the jars to release any air bubbles. Wipe jar tops and threads. Place hot lids on jars and screw bands on firmly. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. This makes 5 pints of a medium hot salsa.

BILL’S SKETTI SAUCE (WITHOUT MEAT, FOR CANNING)

 

30-40 lbs of tomatoes

1 cup chopped onion

Minced garlic cloves, about 5 or use garlic salt about 4 tsp

1 cup chopped green (bell) peppers

5 tsp salt

1 TBSP red pepper flakes

¼ cup chopped hot peppers (Bill uses banana peppers)

2 tsp black pepper

¼ cup virgin olive oil

¼ cup brown sugar; dark is best but light brown will work

Little chopped celery is ok, maybe ¼ cup

If spicier is wanted, add another ¼ cup sugar or after it has cooked a few hours, add sugar to taste.

Go through the usual preparation of the tomatoes (He means blanch, peel, and chop them)

Put the tomatoes in a large pot; start with some in the pot at low heat and add all the rest of the stuff to the pot. Keep stirring frequently. Cook until at least half cooked down but Bill says he usually cooks it to about one-third cooked down. Don’t let it burn to the bottom of the pot; sugar will do this if you are not careful. It may take 16 hours or longer to boil down this far at low heat but high heat will burn unless you stir constantly

 (*Sandra’s cooknote- I bet you could cook this down in a large turkey roaster, the kind that is like a giant crockpot – with the lid off so it reduces).

Prep the jars in the usual manner (*this means washing them in hot soapy water and then scalding the jars in boiling water). Bill adds a tablespoon of lemon juice to each of the jars. It won’t affect the taste but helps keep the acid content high enough for canning. Bill uses a 20 quart pot to cook this sauce, and lo and behold (says he) it’s usually full when he starts and then he ends up with about 13 pints of sauce.

This is a lengthy and informal recipe but I have provided it exactly as it was given to me.

Bill’s sketti sauce is also excellent poured over stuffed bell peppers.

**

But, you say, you aren’t interested in CANNING tomatoes and just want to know how to use some of them when your garden produces a glut of tomatoes (along with that glut of zucchini?) -Here are a few recipes you can try:

ABSOLUTE SALSA (FRESH)

4 green onions, chopped (about 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

4 ripe plum tomatoes OR  2 regular tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)

1/4 cup peeled and diced red onion

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 TBSP olive oil

1/2 cup chopped ripe olives

Salt & pepper to taste

6 dashes Tabasco (hot sauce) or 1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped, with seeds

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

 IN A BOWL, combine all ingredients, except basil. Refrigerate until 1 hour before serving. Just before serving, add basil. Serve at room temp. Good with chips, grilled fish or chicken, or as an omelet filling or on deli meat sandwiches.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

 

EL TORITO SALSA (FRESH)

2 CUPS DICED TOMATOES

½ CUP DICED ONION

1-2 TBSP FINELY DICED JALAPENO PEPPERS

1 TBSP OIL

1 TSP VINEGAR

1 TSP LIME JUICE

½ TSP MEXICAN DRIED LEAF OREGANO

¼ TSP SALT

¼ CUP FINELY CHOPPED CILANTRO

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Check seasoning, add more salt if needed. Serve with tortilla chips. Ole! This is one of my favorite fresh salsa recipes.

 

FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

 6 medium size tomatoes

4 unpeeled cloves or garlic

1 peeled onion, cut in half

Place tomatoes, garlic and onion on a cookie sheet with sides (or jelly roll pan) and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. When cooled, peel   tomatoes and garlic and puree in blender with onions. Simmer in saucepan on stovetop to desired consistency. Cool completely and freeze in plastic storage bags. Sauce may also be canned.

 “MAKE YOUR OWN” SALSA

 1 LB RIPE TOMATOES (2 LARGE) SEEDED AND CHOPPED

½ CUP FINELY CHOPPED GREEN ONIONS

1 TSP MINCED FRESH GARLIC

1-2 TBSP FINELY CHOPPED HOT PEPPER (SUCH AS JALAPENO)

¼ C. CHOPPED FRESH CILANTRO

½ TSP SALT

JUICE FROM 1 LIME

Drain off excess juices from tomatoes; combine with other ingredients. The heat of the salsa depends on the type and amount of hot pepper you choose. Serve with tortilla chips.

PAN GRILLED TOMATO SALSA

3 large meaty tomatoes, cored and cut into thick slices

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 TBSP Sherry vinegar or Balsamic vinegar

Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 Heat a large skillet, preferably cast iron or non-stick, over medium high heat, for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, increase the heat to high and cook until lightly charred on one side, 3-5 minutes. Turn and cook the other side, very lightly, about 1 minute. If necessary work in batches to avoid overcrowding the tomatoes. 

Combine the olive oil and vinegar in a large shallow dish and as the tomatoes are done, turn them into the mixture. Season and serve as a side dish or a sauce for grilled or roasted fish or chicken. Salsa can also be refrigerated for a day or two; bring to room temperature before serving. 

One more recipe – this is a simple tomato recipe you can put together an hour before dinner time and it’s always good. My girlfriend Mary, in Cincinnati, gave this recipe to me – back in the 70s.

 MARY’S HERBED TOMATOES

6 LARGE ripe tomatoes, sliced

1 tsp salt

coarse pepper

¼ cup finely chopped chives

¼ cup vinegar

2/3 cup oil

 Sprinkle layers of tomatoes with herbs and spices. Cover with oil and vinegar (mixed) and let marinate an hour or more.

**

People often ask me about my favorite cookbooks. I have three favorite tomato cookbooks.   One is “TOMATOES! 365 Healthy Recipes for Year-Round Enjoyment” by the editors of Garden Way Publishing. This is a nice spiral bound cookbook from Storey Communications, published in 1991. Another favorite is “THE TOMATO FESTIVAL COOKBOOK” by Lawrence Davis-Hollander, also published by Storey Publishing in 2004, and it’s packed with recipes and historical tomato lore. The Third is an older book (1976) “THE TOMATO BOOK” by Yvonne Young Tarr but along with recipes there is a wealth of information on growing and preserving tomatoes.

Happy Cooking!

 Sandy

 

FREE COOKBOOKLETS WITH YOUR NEW REFRIGERATOR OR STOVE (BACK IN THE DAY)

Out of all the cook booklets in my collection – and there are hundreds – a good percent of them are the booklets that came with your new refrigerator or stove. I thought I would go through some of these and share some of the recipes I think would still be good today—for instance, the Westinghouse Refrigerator recipe booklet published in 1947 came with one hundred recipes—along with instructions for defrosting your 1947 Westinghouse refrigerator (you’ve come a long way baby!) and how to remove ice from the Select-O-Cube tray (that has come a long way baby, as well—who doesn’t have an automatic ice maker nowadays?)

My favorite recipes in the 1947 Westinghouse cookbooklet are what used to be called “ice box cookies” but are referred to as the updated (in 1947) “refrigerator cookies” – these were the forerunners of “slice and bake cookies” that flour companies came along with some years later. Only Pillsbury can claim the title of Bake-Off recipes and the Bake-Off Books that came along in the late 1940s.   I still like the title of “ice box cookies” even though not many of today’s cooks may know where the name originated. An “ice box” cookie recipe was dough that had been rolled into one or two rolls, depending on the  recipe, then wrapped in WAX paper because we didn’t have plastic wrap yet. When the cookie dough had been chilled long enough to be very firm, the lady of the house sliced the cookies, generally in 1-inch slices and baked them in a preheated oven however long the cookbooklet told you to bake them.

My best friend whose house was across the street and down next to a little white church, brought me a little bag of still warm ice box cookies after her mother chastised me over something over which I had no control; the cookies Carol Sue brought to me were a peace offering from her mother.  Her mother had been baking them when we walked in the back door. It had to have been a warm summer night. I don’t know what kind of ice box cookies her mother, Mrs. Wheeler*, made—only that they were delicious and I wanted to make cookies like them. (*we never referred to any of our friends’ parents—or any of the other neighbor ladies or men – as anything other than Mrs. or Mr.)

An interesting example of a booklet that came with a new stove is “recipes and instructions for HOT POINT Electric Ranges,  copyrighted 1926 and published by the Edison Electric Appliance Co., inc, in Chicago. The booklet was prepared by Bernice Lowen, Home Economist and comes with some charming 1920s illustrations, This cookbooklet is old and worn and the cover looks like it might have gotten too close to the stove, a time or two. It even comes with instructions for canning in the Hotpoint Automatic Oven (I don’t think this method lasted very long). It appears that the Hotpoint Electric Range pre-dated electric refrigerators because the cookie (ice box) recipes in the Hotpoint recipe booklet  instruct the cook to place the unbaked dough “on ice” to chill.

Inside an undated booklet titled “Your New Hotpoint Refrigerator” I found a lot of instructions for care and use—and some recipes, although only TWO for making icebox (now refrigerator) cookies.  Is it just me or is “Hotpoint” to describe a refrigerator an oxymoron?

“Coldspot” is the brand name given to the refrigerator sold by Sears Roebuck and Company—back in the day. I can’t find a copyright date on the booklet titled “Modern Menu Magic Coldspot Recipes” which is replete with recipes for ices and sherbets, ice creams, parfaits, mousses and something calls Marlows—which I had never heard of….turns out Marows are dainty little desserts made with marshmallows. There are other chilled desserts but only one recipe for refrigerator cookies.

One of my unusual finds—isn’t something that I actually found. A subscriber to Sandychatter read my article about the Mystery Chef and his famous and popular cookbook “The Mystery Chef’s Own Cookbook” published in the 1930s, and wrote to tell me she had acquired a cookbooklet titled “Be An Artist at the Gas Range/successful Recipes by the Mystery Chef” which was presented “with the compliments of your Gas Company” and would I like to have it?  I said absolutely—I had no other information about the Mystery Chef writing cookbooklets in much the same way as Ida Bailey Allen did for manufacturing companies. “Be an Artist…” is a great little treasure trove of recipes that even included a black and white photograph of the Mystery Chef’s “Drawing Room in New York City”  Alas, the Mystery Chef didn’t devote very much time on cookies and out of the few featured in “Be An Artist” there is only one icebox/refrigerator cookie recipe which is for Butterscotch cookies and similar to another butterscotch cookie recipe I have already provided.  Even so, this is a good little cookbooklet to have in your collection—especially if you are pressed for space in your home and don’t have a lot of bookshelf space for cookbooks. Cookbooklets are a good collection to have—I have a lot  of them on shelves in my kitchen where they are handy but doesn’t take up TOO much space.  **

My best find so far is a 1954 Westinghouse Refrigerator booklet—what enchants me is the “conditional Sales Contract for a Westinghouse Refrigerator ($479.95) and one Whirlpool Washer ($223.07) purchased by someone in Downey, California on June 18, 1954. (I had just graduated from 8th grade). No icebox/refrigerator cookie recipes to share – this booklet was all business—with possibly the first “frost-free Refrigerator”.

I could go on and on –along with some baker’s rack shelves and some of my bookshelves in the garage library are stuffed with recipe booklets that span decades and every food topic or kitchen appliance imaginable—you may remember when Microwave ovens first appeared in department stores, they too came with booklets to help the kitchen cook deal with this new appliance.  But WHAT kitchen appliance was synonymous with refrigerator?  Why, the “Frigidaire” of course.  “Your Frigidaire Recipes and Other Helpful Information”, copyrighted 1934, may have been the crème de la crème of kitchen appliance booklets, with recipes from soups to nuts, ranging from Entrees to 101  suggestions for using leftovers (bearing in mind this was during the Great Depression), many salad and salad dressing recipes—and frozen salads.  There are recipes for “frozen creams”—and something I haven’t seen in booklets before, “how to use evaporated milk in place of whipping cream”.  There are recipes for parfaits and sherbets, ices – and the mysterious “Marlows”. Other recipe categories are included – but only two recipes for refrigerator/ice box cookies – this time one renamed “Frigidaire Cookies.”  Most seniors my age – or older – often referred to the refrigerator—regardless of the name brand – as the Frigidaire.

Here, then, is the recipe for Frigidaire Cookies:

1 ½ cups shortening

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

4 cups flour

Cream shortening, Add sugar and beat well. Then add eggs one at a time beating meanwhile. Sift dry ingredients and stir into first mixture.

It is nice to divide this dough into three portions, adding melted chocolate and vanilla to one; grated coconut to one; nuts and raisins or chopped dates to one. These portions may be made into sausage-like rolls, wrapped in waxed paperand placed in Frigidaire overnight or until wanted. Before baking, slice very thin and bake in hot oven (450 degrees) on baking sheet. Part of the chocolate dough may be rolled to one-fourth thickness (square); a portion of the light dough rolled similarly and placed on the chocolate dough. The two slices should then be “scrolled” in jelly-roll fashion, wrapped in waxed paper, and left in Frigidaire a few hours before slicing. This will give a pinwheel effect.

(Sandy’s cooknote: Bearing in mind this is from a 1934 cookbooklet—no mention is giving for baking time. Personally, if I make up the cookie dough, I would bake them around 350 degrees for 8 or 9 minutes or until brown around the edges. Cool on baking racks.  I have no idea what is meant by “scrolled” in jelly roll fashion so if anyone out there can explain this term, I’d be happy to hear from you).

Your new Hotpoint Refrigerator offers the following icebox/refrigerator recipe for Butterscotch Cookies without any reference to icebox or refrigerator. They are simply

BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup butter or margarine

2 eggs

3 cups sifted flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Cream the sugar and butter or margarine. Add the whole eggs one at a time and blend thoroughly. Sift dry ingredients together and add . stir in nus. Chill the dough, then form into 2-inch rolls. Wrap rolls of dough in waxed paper and store in the refrigerator until needed. Cut in very thin slices. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes 80 cookies.

(Sandy’s cooknote: – again, I urge you to watch the baking time and temperature on these cookies. I would do a tray of test cookies at 400 degrees and if the cookies get too crisp or start burning, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees).

The 1947 Westinghouse Refrigerator cookbooklet boasting of over 100 delicious recipes provides the most cookie recipes along with a photograph (albeit black and white) of baked cookies.  Here is their recipe for Oatmeal Refrigerator Cookies:

2 cups uncooked rolled oats

1 cup sifted cake flour*

1 cup coconut

1 cup granulated sugar

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

½ cup shortening

1 egg

¼ cup evaporated milk

1 tsp vanilla

Mix dry ingredients. Cream shortening (butter) and sugar until creamy. Add egg and beat well. Add dry ingredients alternately with evaporated milk. Mix well. Chill. Then form into rolls. Wrap in waxed paper. Chill until firm. Slice, place on greased cookie sheet* and bake in preheated 400 degree oven.  In baking 2 sheets of cookies  at one time, reverse baking sheets halfway between baking.  Bake 12 minutes. Makes 80 cookies.

(Sandy’s cooknote- I don’t know of anyone who has cake flour on hand nowadays. I looked this up on Google for you:

1. Measure out the flour that you’ll need for your recipe.
2
2. For every cup of flour you use, take out two tablespoons of flour and return it to the flour bin. Put the cup of flour (minus the two tablespoons) into a sifter set over a bowl.
3
3. Replace the two tablespoons of flour that you removed with two tablespoons of cornstarch.
4
4. Sift the flour and cornstarch together. Sift it again, and again and again. The cornstarch and flour need to be well incorporated and the flour aerated. Sift the flour and cornstarch mixture about five times.
5
And now you have cake flour!

(Sandy’s cooknote #2 – Again, I find the baking temperature and time sounds high to me. Test a few cookies at 400 degrees and if it’s too hot, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and watch how they bake. And I have mentioned many times that I don’t “grease” baking sheets anymore – I use only parchment paper when baking cookies. Works very well).

Some of the refrigerator cookie recipes are kind of repetitive in the various cookbooklets so I have tried to find some that are unusual or that I haven’t found elsewhere. These also come from the Westinghouse Refrigerator Over 100 Delicious Recipes from 1947:

RAISIN REFRIGERATOR COOKIES

¾ cup shortening

1 ½ cups light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup seedless raisins

3 cups cake flour (*See description above)

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp nutmeg

Wash raisins (wash raisins??)  and cut into tiny pieces with scissors. Cream sugar and shortening.  Add eggs and raisins and beat well. Sift flour, measure and sift with salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg.  Add to creamed mixture; mix thoroughly. Chill in refrigerator. When stiff enough to handle, form into rolls 2” in diameter, wrap in waxed paper and store in refrigerator.  When ready to bake, cut into ¼” slices. Place on oiled baking sheet*, 1½ inches apart. Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Make about 60 cookies.

(Sandy’s cooknote* Or line your baking sheets with parchment paper. No other greasing, oiling, etc needed. You can re-use the parchment paper many times – until it gets too “old” to use anymore.

GINGERSNAPS

1 cup molasses

½ cup shortening

3¼ cups flour

½ tsp baking soda

2 tsps ground ginger

1½ tsp salt

Heat molasses to boiling point and add shortening. Sift together flour, baking soda, ground ginger and salt. Add to the molasses mixture. Shape into a roll about 2 inches in diameter; wrap in waxed paper and store in refrigerator until wanted. Slice and bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. **

I could go on and on with this topic. If I could figure out how to download photographs of cookbooklets (or any other cookbooks) and upload them onto articles in Sandychatter,  I would happily do so—there was a time when I COULD do it and then wordpress changed some of their instructions and I was left out in the dark. So until then, you will have to make do with text only blog posts. J

–Sandy@sandychatter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REMEMBERING MY FATHER

REMEMBERING MY FATHER

MY FATHER (on Father’s Day)

Remembering my father, on this special day,
Remembering how he looked and talked
And what he’d have to say,
Remembering how he loved to bowl,
Or watch a baseball game,
Remembering what his values were,
But it’s not the same.
I have the many photographs,
And letters that he wrote
I have a sweater that he wore,
And a threadbare coat.
Inside my head I hear his voice,
Calling out my name,
But it’s been so long ago,
And it’s not the same.
I have so many questions that
I should have asked him then,
I’ll have to wait until the time
I see him once again.

–Sandra Lee Smith
Originally posted APRIL 26, 2012

REMEMBERING MY FATHER

My earliest recollections of my father aren’t actually my memories—but I have dozens of black and white photographs in which my father is seen—I have collected for years those photographs in which I am in the picture with my father.

I had the notion for years that my mother was “the family photographer” – after all, it was she who pasted hundreds of old photographs in large catalogs of men wearing suits of every description; it was during WW2 that she pasted the photographs into the suit catalogs (for want of a better description) . Quite possibly, photo albums with black pages weren’t available during the war years and my mother improvised with old suit catalogs that would have been discarded. I think a new catalog was published every year – and my paternal grandfather was a tailor. (Writing about my paternal grandfather would also make a great article—he had traveled throughout many European countries looking for men who wanted a new suit of clothing and spoke seven languages fluently).

At some point in time, after the War was over, my mother tore the photographs out of the suit catalogs and began putting them into “real” photo albums. Oh, how I wish my mother would have left the family photographs in the suit catalogs. For one thing, the family photos took a beating being pasted into the suit albums, then torn out. And I think the photographs, pasted in the suit catalogs—would be quite collectible today.

And, for some reason, I believed for many years that my mother was the family photographer. And to some degree, this was true—but as I went through hundreds of photographs that ended up in my possession, I realized that my father was actually the family photographer—my mother is IN most of the photographs (and she loved having her picture taken—she took great delight in being the center of attention). And it was my father who bought a Nikon camera—I don’t think he had the opportunity to use it as when it came into my possession, it was in like-new condition with instructions and the receipt for the purchase of the camera.

And here’s what amazes me to this day—the camera that produced all the large black and white photographs for many years—was simply a Brownie camera. I had it in my possession in the first years of my marriage and from there always had an inexpensive “point and shoot” camera. (I have no idea what happened to that Brownie camera. I think it was lost in the shuffle when we first moved to Californian). The negatives to the Brownie camera were large and easily reproduced; I made dozens of 8×10 reprints from the negatives I had managed to save.

From early childhood on, I wanted to be a photographer—I would take books about photography out of the public library and read/study them even though I didn’t understand most of what I was trying to read. It wasn’t until the 1980s that I began taking black and white photography classes with a girlfriend from work. By then my father had passed away, and I inherited dad’s Nikon camera. Everyone else in the family also had their own cameras, much better models than anything I ever owned.

It was shortly after this, in 1984, that the girlfriend and I began taking classes one night a week at Glendale Community College; after six weeks of listening to the instructor, we “graduated” to the dark room. But, I digress – and this is another topic about which I could write about.

Let me get back to my father and the early years of my life. Earlier this year, because I was still recuperating from a kidney-related illness, I began putting the loose photographs into some semblance of order—I had “inherited” my mother’s collection of photographs, what she hadn’t given away; I also received an old album plus dozens, if not hundreds, of old ‘loose’ photographs that had been in my older brother’s possession and which he no longer wanted.

When my older sister Becky began fighting breast cancer and I was flying to Nashville to spend time with her–she told me to take whatever old black and white photographs I wanted;—she said none of her children would want them, so I began going through her photo albums. I was flying to Nashville once or twice a year from the time of her first surgery in 2000, until she passed away in 2004) … and there is a short story about HER oldest photographs—they had originally been in albums with black pages; her ex-husband’s second wife tore the photographs out of the albums to save on postage and mailed them to her.

Some of her oldest class photographs from Saint Leo’s were amongst her photo collection— group class pictures of all eight grades, a practice that was discontinued by the time I was a student at St Leo’s. I have a large group photo taken in front of St Leo’s church taken at the time we made our first communions – and an 8th grade graduation photograph also taken in front of the church. (I have my father’s 8th grade graduation photograph taken alongside a side entrance to St. Leo’s School and another large group photograph taken in front of the church that we think was taken when my father was in the 4th or 5th grade. (My father, uncle, and aunt all went to St. Leo’s – as did my sister, brothers and I. My cousin Renee was at St Leo’s until 3rd grade so that means her brother, Pete, would have been at St. Leo’s until 2nd grade.

Becky wrote the names of every student on her group photos. So, all of those old photographs from St. Leo’s, as well as Becky’s teenage pictures taken of her friends down on Queen City Avenue in South Fairmount, have come into my possession.

I didn’t think I would ever get this project completed. I began sorting hundreds of old photographs, putting them into categories – siblings, my parents, cousins, aunts and uncles and so on. I have two large albums filled with these photographs. Then I went back to my own album collection which I had stopped working on in 2012. I had the rest of 2012 and all of 2013 to get into albums. (I converted a linen closet into a photo album closet–I have more albums than linens, starting with an album I started when I was about 14 or 15 years old).

I guess this is when it occurred to me that my parents were often photographed together – or one or the other. I found lots of photographs of myself—either in the arms of my mother or my father—sometimes taken at Le Sourdsville Lake where everyone could swim or enjoy picnic lunches.

By the time my brothers Biff and Bill were born, I don’t think my father went on many of these summer excursions (in retrospect, I think he was busy almost all the time with his bowling. He was also league secretary on many, if not most, of his leagues).

I remember my mother taking all of us and my grandmother to Cincinnati’s version of Coney Island—usually on Findlay Market day, when ride tickets were being sold in advance at Findlay Market and I think my mother took advantage of these ride tickets being sold, something like 20 for a dollar. I have no memory of my father going to Coney Island with us.

We went to the Policemen’s annual picnic, and my father went to that. I have old photographs taken in the early 1940s when I was a toddler, when the family went to LeSourdsville Lake. I think this was more of a Beckman annual family outing than a Schmidt one—all of the photographs I’ve gone through show my mother and father, my mother’s sisters and their husbands (when they were home on leave, I presume) as well as Grandma Beckman.

In other photographs in which my mother’s sisters and their husbands were photographed during the War years, my uncles are wearing their uniforms. All of my uncles who served in World War II survived the war and made it home to their families.

My father was born April 20, 1915; I am fairly certain my father was born at home and delivered by a midwife in the downtown Cincinnati area near Findlay Market. (Both of my parents had been born in Cincinnati.) I had grown up believing my father was the oldest of three children – his brother John (Hans) was born two years later and Annie a few years after Uncle Hans…but we have learned that there were three other children born before my father, children that had died. None of us know much more than that. I think one boy child died on the ship coming to the United States—but the other two may have died in one of the horrific influenza epidemics that swept through cities and states throughout the United States in the early 1900s. My grandmother kept one photograph of a young child in a coffin—a photograph that disappeared when her health began to fail.

I sent some emails to my brother Jim, now my oldest sibling, to ask him about Dad’s work at Formica. Jim wrote, “Dad did get a military exemption since he had 3 children but mainly because he was in a critical career field at Formica. The British developed a process of inlaying gold on Formica but the tool and die department perfected it. Only Dad, Bud Hudson, and George Foreman were knowledgeable on how to do this. Formica kept it a trade secret until they could get the process patterned. This was the advent of micro – chips. Georget Helfridge was his boss in the tool and die department at Formica back in 1941.

I think my father was also exempt from being drafted because his only brother was already in the navy and during the War, Formica—for whom my father began working when I was a baby—stopped making decorative materials and instead produced “Pregwood” – plastic-impregnated wood use for propellers and “bomb burster tubes”. (I checked bomb burster tubes on Google but the explanation was too complicated for me to even attempt to repeat).

After the war, the housing boom boosted the market for decorative Formica. By 1953, one-third of the 6 million new homes had streamlined Formica kitchen surfaces, easy to wipe clean and cigarette proof.

When I was a very young child, I thought my father worked for someone named “Mica” – when he went bowling, he was bowling for mica. His team bowled in the 1947 ABC Bowling Tournament in Los Angeles; my mother accompanied him while we children stayed at Grandma Schmidt’s. I think it was my parents first flight on an airplane and the trip to Los Angeles entailed more than a few changes of flights—one of which I know was in Las Vegas since I have photographs taken of them at McCarran Airport. Only one other wife made the trip to L.A. besides my mother.

A few years ago, when my father’s scrapbooks came into my possession, I put together an album of his life and bowling career. Bowling was the favorite pastime and sport of both my parents; they had his, hers, and their bowling leagues. My parents had dozens of bowling trophies—many ended up stored in boxes and trunks in the basement—so it goes without saying that my mother was never a bowling “widow”.

I texted my brother and asked him to provide some of dad’s bowling history for me. I think you would have grown up and lived in the Midwest to really understand the attraction for bowling in Ohio and a lot of other Midwestern cities. During the wintertime, there was always bowling, regardless of the weather.

Jim wrote “I initially did not bowl with dad except in tournaments like ABC, etc. However, around 1962, we did join teams and bowled in the Knights of Columbus league on Sunday afternoon in a traveling league and we bowled in 35 different houses (bowling establishments) over the season. I was bowling with Mergards (a big bowling establishment in Northside) on Saturday night and Wednesday night at the same time. We bowled for Northside’s Knights of Columbus after transferring. We bowled with Bob Lintz and Steve Petko. After winning the league, dad asked me to join him on Tuesdays at Sanker’s (a well known bowling establishment in Mount Healthy).We had Don Mechlem, Yotz Purtell and another bowler. We also started up a 2 man Classic at Sanker’s. Dad and I bowled together. I averaged 205 and Dad 191. Again winners, we would bowl in the state, city, ABC (American Bowling Congress, now USBC) and Knights of Columbus tournaments. I was still going to school at University of Cincinnati…” (*Jim spent 4 years in the Air Force, then resumed his education while also working full time and supporting his family).

Jim writes, “Somewhere during this time frame, Dick Tabler joined us. We then bowled Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights. I continued to bowl with Stone’s Palace in Norwood on Mondays and on Wednesdays in the Hudepohl traveling league. Dad bowled at Brentwood with Vince Laehr at Colerain’s (Our uncle Vince– was a boyhood friend of dad’s who married our mother’s younger sister, our Aunt Rainy—so he and Dad were brothers in law) Many times I bowled on Sunday afternoon and Sunday night. Dad continued to bowl almost exclusively at Sankers…”

(Sandy’s note: I learned from our cousin Renee—who asked her father—how our fathers became childhood friends when they lived in different neighborhoods. Uncle Vince replied “when a bunch of boys were sled-riding down a steep street in the wintertime—no one would go down the hill with Pete—until Vince volunteered. They became buddies and when they were teenagers, the two took dancing lessons at Arthur Murray’s Dancing School to “impress those pretty Beckman sisters”. (My father was always a good dancer—I never knew about the dancing lessons. After my father passed away, my mother took up dancing. My brother Jim asked her what she wanted to do and she replied “I always wanted to dance”. And so she did.)

Jim continues, “After I received my MBA in 1973, I did bowl with Dad on Thursdays at Sanker’s when I decided to go for a Ph.D in psychology. I quit bowling and, of course, Julie was born in 1976.

This was when mom and dad went down to Florida to live (in Largo, Florida, at the Four Seasons Mobile Park. Largo is near Tampa, close to the ocean.) I eventually went to Michigan to work and live and gave up bowling for 20+ years. Dad continued to bowl in Florida and went to annual ABC bowling tournament until 1984…”

Sandy’s note “**the ABC’s were in Reno in 1984. Dad sent me a plane ticket to join them and it was the only time in my memory that I had both parents entirely to myself for 4 days). Dad had at least 25 years in league participation. The ABC tournament in Reno would be his last. I had such a wonderful time with them in Reno…”

Jim continues to write: “They moved to Florida in 1976. Mom said she was going down alone if he didn’t retire. He was working 14 hours a day, seven days a week. And he was bowling 4 nights a week. Scott and Susie were left in the house on Mulberry to fend for themselves. I had my own problems since Bunny took off with Julie 3 weeks after she was born. I found out she went to visit a (friend or relative?) in Melbourne, Florida. I have no idea why they (our parents) didn’t ask me to look after Susie…”

(Good question. and did anyone ever learn why Bunny took off for Florida just after Julie was born?)

Jim writes, “That winter, they came up to Cincinnati to visit. Scott and Dad went out shopping in a snow storm and got stuck in a parking lot. Dad was pushing (Scott behind the wheel) when he fell and shattered his knee cap. That eventually developed a blood clot in leg. (*Dad was put on blood thinners which caused him to get an ulcer. It was one thing after another. His leg was in a cast which was too tight – by the time they removed the cast, he already had a blood clot. He even had the last rites – he believed he WAS dying—but he recovered).

To return to Jim’s notes – “the blood clot in his leg in 1984 went to his heart and killed him” (*Dad had an initial heart attack—while bowling, what else?)

Sandy writes “In 1984 I flew to Florida –a girlfriend got plane tickets for me to fly to Florida on a Sunday and delivered them to my house on Saturday night. It was the only time I can remember that I had ‘rat-holed’ four hundred dollars, planning to go with a girlfriend to Carmel. I went, over husband Jim’s objections—he was rude and unkind—I had to pack my bags in the dark; I couldn’t understand why—I said to him “if it was your mother, I would be supportive”. I didn’t know at the time that he had a girlfriend—which makes his objections to my going to Florida even more mysterious. My brother Jim was already in Florida; he and mom met my flight. We went up to the hospital to see Dad and the last thing I said to my father was “I love you, Daddy” to which he replied, “I love you too. I’m glad you’re here”.

Three hours later, he had another heart attack which was fatal. We, in the family, believe that the blood clot he had had in his leg (from the previous injury to his knee) broke loose and went to his heart. He was rubbing his leg while we were there and a nurse came in. She asked him why he was rubbing his leg and he said “because it aches” to which SHE replied “well, don’t rub it”. All the signs were there – we just weren’t reading them right. And Dad’s cardiologist was in Cincinnati.

Sandy writes “The hospital called to tell us that my father had passed away. Jim woke mom up and the three of us went back to the hospital—to see for ourselves, I guess. We said some prayers and then returned to my parents’ mobile home at the Four Seasons.

The entire time we—mom, Jim and I-were driving back to my parents’ mobile home, I kept looking over my shoulder as Jim was driving & mom up in front with him so I had the back seat. I felt like we were being followed. Later I concluded that Dad was following us. We got mom to go back to bed and Jim began calling all the family. Around 3 am I went to take a shower, to stay awake – and I heard my father calling my name. He said my name three times—I tried to ignore the voice but finally said “I hear you dad. What do you want?” He replied “Take care of your mother”.

Well, Jim did take care of her; I was so involved with my own problems—a failing marriage and a lot of anger and towards a man who, I discovered, had been cheating our entire marriage. I have always felt Jim (Smith) wouldn’t have confessed about the girlfriend if my father was still alive.

“REMEMBERING MY FATHER” (written July 16, 2009)
It was twenty five years ago today
that my father passed away
And many of the events leading up to
And following his death
Are etched forever in my mind
Never to be forgotten.
I, who will be 69 on my next birthday Have a greater appreciation that he was Only sixty nine when he was taken from us.
I have often wondered
if the medical care had been better in Florida,
Or if he had still been in Ohio
Under the care of his own doctor,
If things might have turned out differently.
1984 was a horrific year
For all of us, my family and
Some of my friends
And it was a year to be gotten through Day by day And month by month.
—Sandra Lee Smith

LETTERS MY FATHER WROTE TO MY MOTHER IN 1978

I typed the letters, which my brother Jim had in his possession (Bunny’s handwriting was on the envelope) and which Jim gave to Susie—presumably when we were in Florida in April, 2013. Oddly enough, the memorial mass for Bunny, who died August 29, 2012—was held on April 20, 2013– dad’s birthday.

To put these letters into a better perspective, the following is from my journal memoirs, which I have been converting from notebooks into my computer. I wrote the following letter to my penpal Bev, who had kept all my letters over the years and gave stacks of them to me when I began working on my memoirs in 2011.
I wrote this to Bev: “March 15, 1978 – has been one disaster after another. We have had 2 months of rain (no more drought!) and floods and terrible mudslides. Back east they’ve had incredible blizzards and snow storms with unheard of sub-zero temperatures. Mom & Dad drove back to Ohio in January, just missing blizzards along the way, only to be in a big one in Cincinnati, and two days after the blizzard, Dad’s car got stuck in the snow and when he tried to push it out, he fell on his right knee, and tore the cartilage. The next day they operated on him; that was bad enough – it’s such a painful operation and he suffered terribly. Mom said later that for two days she prayed while he swore. Well a few days after he was released from the hospital, his leg under the cast began swelling. Mom got him back into the hospital, this time with phlebitis. They put him on anticoagulants and a week later he was in terrible pain and spitting blood and had developed a bleeding ulcer from the anticoagulants. He was taken to intensive care. He was so seriously ill that a priest came and administered the last rites. It drove me crazy to be so helpless. I wanted to go home. They said no, don’t come, if you come he’ll believe he is dying. He reached a crisis on Feb 18 – which was, oddly, the anniversary of HIS father’s death. He was convinced he would never leave the hospital alive. I just couldn’t cope with it. I guess no one ever really is. My parents always seemed so strong to me. Anyway, Dad is recuperating at home now and doing better, and perhaps everything will be ok, especially when they can return to Florida”.

The following letters were written by my father, to my mother, in 1978. Two are dated – one February, 24, 1978 and one February, 1978. A third is undated.
“Vi Darling
You know I don’t like to write notes but for you I’d do anything so here goes:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
You are so sweet
That’s why I love you.
Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx There’s your kiss. Now will you be so kind as to mail that letter for me and wake me about 12:00
Peter (and I still say I love you.”

“February 1978:
Dear Vi,
It’s been so long since we really cared about each other. The only thing that hurts is my concern about your beer drinking. I love you and always will no matter what I may say or do. When you are at the end of the ropes and find out later how many people cared, you feel both good & bad. Maybe we could have done more but my love for you will be forever. Love, Pete”

“2-14-78
Dear Vi,

It isn’t easy laying here and not knowing what, where and when it will happen. They all put on a good show. But once that clot breaks loose it could be the end. But whatever happens always remember that I loved you all the years we were together. God gave me a reprieve last Saturday and Sunday so have a mass said for my mother & father and your mother & father. You might say I just have this down feeling but for some reason I have this feeling and can’t shake it. I love you. Pete”

*These notes were each written on a single sheet of paper, which had been folded and refolded dozens (if not hundreds) of times. I think Bunny found them when she & Jim began going through mom’s things. There were a couple of personal telephone books in my mother’s handwriting that Bunny sent to me—I have one but an older second telephone book disappeared. I had started that phone book when the family moved to NCH in 1955 or 56 and I began typing names & addresses into it for mom.

Dad recovered from the knee injury and they returned to Florida to live. In 1984 he had a first heart attack followed by a second one 3 days later that took his life. He was 69 years old.

My mother displayed symptoms of Alheimers years before it was actually diagnosed. Her “best friend” Ron took her to Michigan to drop her off at Jim & Bunny’s and then he stole anything not nailed down in my parents’ mobile home. She didn’t know either of my sisters or me when we visited her at the nursing home. She was 83 years old when she passed away on September 29, 2000. I was thankful she didn’t die on my birthday.

I think there are other letters my father wrote to my mother. We have no way of knowing what happened to them. My mother may have burned them when she was busy burning the things her children collected – baseball cards and old comic books—all the negatives from years of photography—many things when they were making plans to move to Florida permanently. I could delve deeply into my mother’s psyche without ever coming close to knowing or understanding what was going on in her mind. I’ve tried to tell her story from an open unbiased point of view but it’s a hard thing to do, being one of her children who was subject to her whims and episodes of anger and her frequent accusations that no one loved her and/or that we loved grandma Schmidt more than her and/or that we loved our father more than her. There are no answers to many questions we are left with years later. My brother Jim & I visited the cemetery when we were in Florida in April 2013; unbeknownst to me, Susie & her family visited the cemetery too. Both parents are buried in Calvary Cemetery in Clearwater Florida, a long way from their birthplace of Cincinnati, Ohio.

–SANDRA LEE (SCHMIDT) SMITH

Reflections:
Jim wrote “Normally your first thoughts are the most accurate and meaningful. I’d go with what you have written. Our lives are near an end but it may make a difference, especially to Scott. You are disclosing a lot of information that our siblings don’t know. I know that my life could have been different if only someone had told me how important it was to continue my education. I felt always sorry for Becky. She got the shaft. Her only recourse was to run away and get married. This was going from bad to worse.

Many times I think of Renee. (Uncle Vince & Aunt Rainy’s oldest child). What are her perceptions? There were only four [children] in the Laehr family. Hopefully our younger brothers and sister can gain some insight into our background and benefit from it.” (June 27, 2014)

We – at least Becky, Jim and I, – have often looked back on our lives and wished we had done things differently. Becky took classes at UC around the same time Aunt Dolly began taking art classes there. Becky could accomplish anything that challenged her – she began working with pottery and her husband Bill put a kiln in their basement; she told Bill she wanted to learn how to fly; he told her to go for it. She got a private pilot’s license. I think the only thing that ever hampered her were her husbands (#1 and #2) who both, I think, were male chauvinists—quite like our father, when you think about it.

Becky was the most mistreated of all of us but you would never guess it from things she wrote—I think she wrote about personal things the way she wished it had been. I know my mother mistreated her; I think mom blamed Becky for an unwanted pregnancy that none of mom’s in-laws would ever let her forget.

And I think Becky yearned for approval and acceptance from both of our parents. I have forgotten many things from my childhood but have never forgotten how Becky was treated—not just when we were children but when she was a young adult as well. I think that’s what motivated and challenged Becky more than the rest of us – she was trying to prove to our parents that she was a good person, that she was smart and could accomplish whatever she set out to do. Becky got married at 15 to get out of the house. Jim went into the Air Force after he graduated from Elder High School. I got married at 18 because I felt trapped—I had taken care of Scott from the time he was born and throughout the summer after graduation; I was hired by Western Southern in September (and the pay was a pittance) – and mom said to me “now that you have a job, you have to pay room and board”. I was furious; it seemed so unfair—no one ever paid ME for taking care of my brothers (not that I expected or wanted it) – it just seemed unfair and so I cried telling im (Smith) about it and he said “Well, we could get married.” I had no idea what I was letting myself in for—but it was one of the few ways a “good” girl could leave her parents home – if I wasn’t going to college—a nice girl didn’t have her own apartment. I’ve often wondered—if I had rented rooms from Grandma, and she had kept her house and not sold it to Aunt Annie – then when Jim came home the two of us would have had an apartment in Grandma’s house—I would have continued working downtown and Jim would have been able to continue his education—and Grandma wouldn’t have lost her will to live by giving up her house.

Maybe we really don’t have a choice in how our lives are mapped out. Jim Smith & I moved to California where Chris & Kelly were born, and began divorce proceedings in 1985. I was fortunate that I had a great job by then and was able to support myself. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I would have been able to buy another house on my own. You have to believe that you are where you are supposed to be as you go through life – otherwise what would have been the purpose to your life?

FOUR DAYS IN RENO
Four days in Reno,
We laughed and talked
And had ourselves a time;
Four days in Reno,
A year ago those days
Were yours and mine..
Little did we realize
The sands of time
Were quickly running past;
Four days in Reno–
I should have known
It couldn’t last.

And now when it’s late at night
And I am in my bed alone,
I remember Reno
And all the happy times we’ve known;
I still can see us smiling
Silhouettes against a snowy mountain sky
And memories I’ll cherish–
Four days that I’ll remember
Til I die.

(In memory of my parents and the last ABC Tournament held in Reno, where I joined my parents in March, 1984 to spend a few days with them – Sandra Lee Smith

THE INVISIBLE MOM

I don’t know who wrote this, but I appreciate the sentiments–Sandy

THE INVISIBLE MOTHER

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’

Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this??

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’

Some days I’m a crystal ball; ‘Where’s my other sock?, Where’s my phone?, What’s for dinner?’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature — but now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe .

I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription:

‘With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book.
And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names.

2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.

3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

4) The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard, ‘I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.

‘No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.’

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he’d say, ‘You’re gonna love it there…’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.

AUTHOR UNKNOWN but isn’t this a wonderful tribute for mothers everywhere?

–Sandy